LET JESUS' LIGHT SHINE THROUGH YOU
Dear Friends in Christ,
A construction site should probably be labeled “For Mature Audiences Only.” It is common knowledge that construction workers use pretty salty language. You don’t want to take a seven year old child there. That child will learn words he has never known before. Yet if that child used some of the words he would hear, punishment ought to be forthcoming. In my day that meant having a mouth washed out with soap. It doesn’t make any difference if it is Safeguard, Irish Spring, Dial or Dove. Some of them smell good, but none of them taste good. Hmmm…how would you know that, Pastor?
In my day construction jobs were coveted by students working a summer job. Some of them even became pastors. Some never let their plans for the future be known on their summer jobs. Some never let their allegiance to Jesus Christ ever be known. Before we drop our jaws and roll our eyes, very few of us have not done the same thing somewhere along the line.
Has anyone said to you, “Hey, I didn’t know you were a Christian”? Shame on you! Did it bring you to your knees in repentance?
The season of Epiphany, this season of the church year, is a time when we emphasize how Jesus reveals himself as Savior of all. He displays his power to prove who he is. We heard that in both the Old Testament and Gospel readings for today. These words, once written to the Christians in Rome, show how God displays his power too. He displays his power through the people he has calls into his church. He displays his power through you and me. He calls on you to “Let Jesus’ Light Shine through You.” He speaks about 1) the Don’ts and 2) the Do’s.
Jesus is the light of the world. That’s what the prophets predicted about him before he even showed up on this earth 2000 years ago. Writing hundreds of years before Jesus descended to this world the prophet wrote, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah was speaking about Jesus.
The world needed his kind of light then and still needs it now. What kind of light? To know the Creator; to know that we are all right with him in spite of his perfection and holiness and our lack of perfection and holiness! The light the world needs is to see and to know that the Creator is merciful to people who don’t deserve to have mercy.
Jesus wasn’t shy about claiming that he was the one about whom Isaiah spoke: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
While there was and is an awful darkness that haunts humanity because humanity has no solution on how to know the Creator and know there is a way to him. That’s what Jesus came to do. As the light of the world he came to show us the way; in fact, he did more. He came to be the way. His mission was to save us from our sin. His life was one of substitution – his perfect life lived for us - our sinful lives given to him so he could die and pay sin’s penalty. All who believe that by faith have light. Jesus is the Way to the Father. He is the only way to the Father. The way to the Father is not hidden any more.
But there is more. Not only is he the Light of the world, but all who embrace him by faith become lights too. We are here to show people the way to Jesus who is the light to the Father.
Listen to what Jesus says about you. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
How are we a light? “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” We can’t die for everyone like Jesus did. Only he was precious enough to make the way possible. But we can and need to show people how important Jesus is in our lives and needs to be in the life of all others.
That’s the point that Paul has in mind when he writes in Romans chapter twelve. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.” How do we handle unfriendly relationships? How do we handle people who might consider us the enemy?
Jesus once said, “Love your enemies.” If you love the enemy, then it seems to me they really aren’t the enemy any longer. Jesus died for every last one of them. The promises we have are available to them. The only feeling we should have for those who don’t believe it is pity. Their lack of trust and love and faith in Jesus will condemn them.
Paul writes, “Don’t repay evil for evil.” In other words the object is, don’t get even, rather, show love. Repaying evil for evil is something that the Devil wants to happen and he does that himself. I have often thought about why the Devil doesn’t simply give up being the enemy of God and his people. He has been fighting against God ever since he rebelled against the Lord in the heavens and was tossed out never to gain entry again. He has lost, so why does he keep up fighting? I played in a few football games in high school and college where my team got pounded. By the fourth quarter, it was hard to keep fighting when there were cleat marks up and down our backside. Satan sure is spunky as ever and wants as many as possible to share in the hell that he is destined for. Don’t repay evil with evil because that’s Satanic.
Don’t repay evil for evil because the sinful side in us gets way too much pleasure in that. Don’t tell me that you didn’t delight when someone gets his due. Let me give you an example. Years ago Chicago Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson paid a $1000 fine for disputing a strike called by umpire Joe West. He got tossed out of the game and was fined. On the memo line of his check Dawson wrote: "Donation for the blind." To prove my point that we delight in repaying evil for evil, how many of you think that was funny? He got one last shot at Joe West. How many of you wish you could think of a snappy comeback like Mr. Dawson did? Don’t repay evil with evil because it gives far too much pleasure to our own sinful nature.
Don’t repay evil for evil because it drives our “enemies” farther away from Jesus instead of closer. Repaying evil with evil will never win people for Jesus. Why ultimately are you on the face of the earth? I hope this doesn’t surprise any to know that God put us here to come to know Jesus, to serve Jesus and to share Jesus with others. Repaying evil with evil does not do any of those three. In fact, when a Christian repays evil with evil it might be the final nail in the coffin of another person’s soul and drive a person away from the Lord once and for all.
Let’s avoid the don’ts and do the do’s. Paul writes, “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” We hear people say (we have said it ourselves), I don’t care what people think; I am going to do what I want. The apostle says, “Do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” So many things we do are so impulsive. We need to stop and weigh our words and actions. God gives us a certain pecking order when it comes to decisions we make. Remember the acronym JOY to help you. J stands for Jesus. First of all, what does Jesus want us to do? O stands for others. How will what I say and do affect others? Y stands for you. Put yourself last.
Earlier in chapter 12 Paul writes, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” We all need a good dose of humility in all that we do. Jesus first; others second; you last!
Paul continues, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Let your attitude reflect the attitude of Jesus. He came to die for all. He came to forgive all. He came to save all. His life was all about others to bring peace to souls. Let your thoughts be the same.
It is interesting that Paul includes the phrase “if it is possible live at peace.” The first instinct of the sinful nature is to strike back. That’s wrong. Follow the new man. Live in peace. We know that there are those who don’t love the Lord and will never willing love do something God says because they love him, but that doesn’t give any of us an excuse to irritate them instead of loving them.
I remember a very wise and experienced pastor who had a lot of tread wear say that he was convinced that some people aren’t happy unless they are disagreeable. He was probably right, but being disagreeable with them will never draw them closer to Jesus. If someone has done you wrong, the Lord says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” Is the Lord saying that God’s people should just let others just walk over us and take advantage of us? There are some things we need to consider, but the bottom line is let whatever is done be done out of love and not vengeance.
If someone tries to take advantage of us and we let them get away with it, those same people might do the same to others too. That’s why we need to stop that person for his own good and for the good of others whom they might want to make victims. That’s love. You hear about scams in home repair along with a lot else. God’s children will not simply say it’s only money and be completely passive; those same people will try to take advantage of others and in doing so harden their own consciences. God says ultimately he will take care of it. Often it might come through his agent the government.
We need to remember that we have a God in heaven. He is present everywhere and sees all things and knows all things. Finally he will sort all things out. There is a day of judgment and it will be a disaster for all who don’t repent of their sins.
In the meantime he gives us some very important counsel, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” That’s the way of Jesus! When he was abused (he saw it much more than any of us ever will) he had the power to strike back. He had the power to call countless avenging angels to his side and teach his abusers a thing or two. He had the power to teach them a lesson that they would never forget in hell. But he didn’t. He gave them more time to repent. He gave his life in death as a payment for that sin and all others. When Judas threw Jesus under the bus and, Jesus called him “friend” in the garden to seek his repentance. Jesus came to an entire world that hated him to forgive it. The blood that stained the ground where he was flogged, the blood that stained the cross where he was crucified was for all…because he loved.
Unfortunately far too many want no part of that. They will find out the consequences one day. Those consequences will last forever.
In the meantime, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” When we love God says that we heap coals of fire on someone’s head. When we kill them with kindness instead of hate perhaps that will drive people to be embarrassed and ashamed of their actions and turn from their ways to Jesus.
Let me remind you once again that this is the season of Epiphany. Jesus reveals himself as the Savior of the world. Billions of people will never study the Scripture to see who Jesus is, but they can see Jesus in you. So let Jesus’ light shine through you.